Assertiveness is the backbone of effective communication and relationship management. When you are assertive you find it easy to stand up for your own rights without impinging on the rights of others. The key to doing this successfully is to be aware of your assertiveness rights.  Assertiveness rights are broadly accepted rights which each person possesses. If you wanted to know all of your human rights, you could read 'The Univeral Declaration of Human Rights'. This post covers the most common assertiveness rights which you might use on a daily basis.

Whether in work, or in your personal life, you will regularly encounter people who want you to do things which you do not want to do, or which you may feel uncomfortable doing. Learning to manage these requests effectively will improve your confidence, personal effectiveness and your relationships. Many people fear being assertive as they are afraid that others will not approve of them but people generally have more respect for those who will stand up for themselves and their rights. When you defend your assertiveness rights; not only do you send a clear signal that you respect yourself but you signal that you respect others too.

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Assertiveness rights

​The following are just some of your many assertiveness rights. These are the assertiveness rights which tend to be challenged most often. Defending these rights will greatly improve your confidence, personal effectiveness and relationships:

1. Be yourself

Assertiveness Rights you need to defend (1)

​You are your own person with your own beliefs and values. You are entitled to live your life as you see fit, as long as you do not deliberately seek to hurt others. Others may be inadvertently upset by some of your choices but that does not mean that you have to change.

Life would be incredibly boring if we were all the same. Variety truly leads to a happier and healthier life. And, by being yourself, you are adding a little variety both to your life and, to the lives of everyone you interact with.

Think for a moment about the people you admire most. When you think about why you really admire them, you will find that one of the main factors is that they are their own person. They live their life, on their terms and make no apologies for doing so. You should feel free to do likewise.

​Key point

​You were not put on this Earth to live somebody else’s life and, nobody else was put here to live yours. So, get to know yourself and live the life that serves you best. This is where all assertiveness rights start.


​To start getting a better idea of who you really are and, how you want to live your life, check out Values Based Living.

 2. Respect yourself

Assertiveness Rights you need to defend (2)

​You are entitled to make decisions which respect your sense of identity and purpose. Where agreeing to the requests of others would contradict your values, identity or purpose, it is perfectly acceptable to say 'No'.

I am sure that you want to live a life where you can help others. We humans are social animals and we do love to interact with and, help others where possible. But you are not helping others when you are constantly saying Yes at your own expense.

When you want to help others, you can only do so from a position of strength. This requires that you are happy, healthy and in a good place. This only happens when you dedicate enough time to living your best life, pursuing your own goals and dreams.

You are then respecting yourself and putting yourself in a better position to respect and support others

​Key point

​Putting yourself first is not selfish or disrespectful. It is one of the essential assertiveness rights which allows you to act from a strong position. You must respect yourself first because you cannot give to others what you do not have yourself.


​One of the first things you can do to respect yourself is to set a direction for your life, by discovering and living your purpose. Living Purposefully will help.

3. Choose your own priorities

Assertiveness Rights you need to defend (3)

​Each person has responsibility for their own life. In accepting responsibility for your own life, you have the right to choose your own priorities. When you have a sense of purpose, you will want to prioritise tasks which help you fulfil that purpose.

I must stress again that you are not on this Earth to live somebody else’s life. You have got one shot to live the best life you can, on your terms. Every day, you will face dozens of decisions about what you should be doing, what is the best use of your precious resources – time, energy, attention, money etc.

The quality of your life is not determined in one moment, it is determined each time you decide about what to prioritise. You don’t just spend your time and resources, you invest them. How you choose to use them determines what you will experience in return.

Prioritisation is not just a good habit, it is one of the most essential assertiveness rights. It is something you must remember every time you need to make a decision.

​Key point

​If you don’t get to live the life you really want, it is not somebody else’s fault. You were given the resources; you chose how to use them so, the results you achieve are of your own doing.

 4. Say ‘No’

Assertiveness Rights you need to defend (4)

​Some people find it the hardest word to say but ‘No’ is one of the most empowering words. If you do not want to do something, you are entitled to say ‘No’. You do not need to justify your choice.

Don’t live under the illusion that you can do absolutely everything in life. You will regularly have people come to you asking you to do things for them. It is nice to help others, but you must ask yourself the following question:

‘If I agree to do this, what am I not going to be able to do?’

There is always an opportunity cost when you agree to do something. There will always be 24 hours in the day, so time is limited. If you squeeze something in, you are going to have to drop something else. If agreeing to help somebody else causes you to miss out on something you really want to do; then is it worth it?

If you don’t think you should be agreeing to it, you must say No. It keeps your time and resources free to focus on what is important to you.

​Key point

Saying No is probably the most powerful of your assertiveness rights as it eliminates things that would have caused you problems, before they every make it on to your to-do list or schedule.

There is always an opportunity cost when you agree to do something for somebody else. ​​You are going to have to drop something else. If ​it causes you to miss out on something you really want to do; then is it worth it?

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 5. Be fallible

Assertiveness Rights you need to defend (5)

​You will make mistakes and you will get things wrong. That is a natural part of life. As long as you were trying to do the right thing, people cannot have much of an argument with you. Rather than getting upset by the response of others, choose to learn from your mistakes and get it right next time.

Fallibility is an assertiveness right which applies in two ways:

People need to accept that you are going to make mistakes from time to time but, you are prepared to learn from your mistakes and take corrective action. We all make mistakes, it is part of our humanity. So, others do not have the right to attack or vilify you for your mistakes.

Just as importantly, you must understand that you will make mistakes. It can be too easy to beat yourself up when you make mistakes. But you should treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would treat others when they make mistakes. Be kind, learn your lesson and move on.

​Key point

​Too many problems in life are caused by people failing to understand that we are only human, and we will make mistakes. The important thing is not being perfect, it is showing a desire and willingness to learn from the mistake so that you may grow and develop.

 6. Express your feelings without getting personal

Assertiveness Rights you need to defend (6)

​It is common, and acceptable, for people to disagree with each other. If you disagree with someone’s comments or behaviour, you have the right to express that disagreement. As long as you do not make it personal i.e. you focus on the behaviour / opinion rather than the person, you are within your rights to express your feelings.

Remember that we all have our own views on life and how it should be lived. Just because my beliefs may differ from yours, it does not mean that one of us must be right and the other wrong. There are very few facts in life and, as we discover more about life, we learn that many of our facts are not actually correct.

Why argue over differences of opinion? If you think differently than the other person, you have every right to state your different opinion, but you do not have the right to force them to agree with you.  Even if they are wrong, they have the right to be wrong. So, agree to disagree and move on.

​Key point

​So many fights, verbal and physical, could be avoided in life if people accepted this fundamental assertiveness right. Agreeing to disagree saves conflict, time, energy and allows you to remain happy.

 7. Be understood

Assertiveness Rights you need to defend (7)

​When there are conflicting opinions, people can become so stubborn in the defence of their own views that they refuse to hear others. People have the right to disagree with you but you have the right to have your opinion heard and understood. If they then want to disagree, that’s fine.

I had an old friend who, every time he was in trouble, would complain about how others took advantage of him and gave him no say in the decision-making process. I would ask him:

‘Did you make any effort to express your opinion?’

He would tell me that he wasn’t given an opportunity to have his say. As cruel as it might sound, my friend wasn’t a victim; he was a coward. He, like so many other people, lived under the illusion that others were duty bound to consider his feelings and opinions and, he was afraid of upsetting others by speaking up.

We should always consider others, but it is not realistic to think that is going to happen. Others will do what is in their best interests unless you speak up. Your assertiveness rights are useless unless you choose to exercise them.

If you disagree with something, it is your duty to speak up. Don’t wait for others to seek your opinion because that may not happen. Speak your mind and have no regrets about it.

​Key point

​If something is important to you, you must not be an observer. You must exercise your assertiveness rights, speak up and ensure that you are heard and understood.

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8. Make your choices without guilt

Assertiveness Rights you need to defend

When you disagree with others, they will sometimes try to guilt trip you into changing your mind. That behaviour is unacceptable. You have your assertiveness rights and you have the right to defend them. In doing so, you are not attacking others; you are simply standing up for yourself. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

You have the right to choose your own path in life and to make the decisions necessary to follow that path.  It is never about taking decisions to hurt or hinder others. It is about committing to living the best life you can with your time here on Earth.

There will be times when others are angry or annoyed by your decisions, but they rarely have any right to feel that way. People should respect your right to live your life, on your terms; just as you respect their right to do likewise.

So, pick your path, make your choices, exercise your assertiveness rights and don’t waste your time feeling guilty about the decision you took with the best of intentions.

​Key point

​You are not responsible for how others feel about the decisions you took with the best of intentions. We all want good relationships but, taking responsibility where you should not do so, does not help anyone. In the end it makes you subservient to the other person’s feelings.


​It is easy to be assertive when you know your values. To learn more about values, check out Values Based Living.


Assertiveness is one of the most essential personal development skills. It impacts on every area of life – personal and interpersonal.  You have assertiveness rights which help you to manage yourself and your relationships. When you defend these rights, you are helping to boost your health and happiness. Familiarise yourself with the 8 assertiveness rights outlined above. If you find yourself doubting any of them, you might like to talk through them with a friend. Your friend might also help you identify which rights you need to work on. Remember, it can take a little time to change your behaviour so be patient and committed.​

Image credit: Dreamtime stock photos


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